Detroit Lions Week 3 rookie review: Lions rookies come back down to earth against Vikings

Some weeks are going to look like they did against the Washington Commanders in Week 2. Others are going to look more like they did in Week 3 against the Minnesota Vikings. Most will probably fall somewhere between the two extremes. This is the nature of being as young as the Detroit Lions are. Ebbs and flows are inevitable when so much of the roster is so inexperienced.

Furthermore, US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis is a particularly tough place to win, and despite leading 24-14 late in the game, the young Lions ultimately came up short—losing 28-24.

Let’s take a look at how each member of the Lions’ 2022 draft class fared in Week 3 of the regular season.

Aidan Hutchinson, DL

57 snaps (79% of total defensive snaps) — 6 special teams snaps (21%)
PFF defensive grade: 52.0

It wasn’t a banner day for Hutchinson or anyone else in the front seven. The Vikings got what they wanted on the ground, giving running backs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison ample running space.

There were positive moments, like here, where Hutchinson did exactly what was asked of him, resulting in a short gain for the Vikings. If you’re going to be a big time edge defender in this league, opposing tight ends can’t block you.

Still, there were too many instances like this one, where much of the Lions’ front is getting washed out of the game. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn will be the first to tell you that his scheme is predicated on defensive linemen getting upfield and erasing gaps. However, it can’t be at the expense of being gap-sound. Too much of this, and you end up with wide-open cutback lanes.

During my rewatch of the Minnesota game, one thing that stuck out was how few players like Hutchinson and fellow defensive end Charles Harris were winning their one-on-ones. In fact, the only player along the Lions’ front that was winning his one-on-ones with any regularity was defensive tackle Alim McNeill.

On top of that, Vikings’ first-year head coach Kevin O’Connell did a nice job of getting the ball out of quarterback Kirk Cousins’ hands. If there was no play-fake of any kind, Cousins ​​was often getting rid of the ball as soon as he reached the bottom of his drop-back. And as bad as the Lions were with slowing down Minnesota’s ground game on early downs, it left them with few real pass-rush opportunities.

Part of me wants to just chalk this up to being the first road test for the rookies, but to dismiss it entirely would be impractical. This won’t be the last dynamic back the Lions face this season, and they will need more from players like Hutchinson when the time comes.

Jameson Williams, WR

DNP: Recovering from a knee injury suffered in January

Josh Paschal, DL

DNP: Recovering from sports hernia surgery

Kerby Joseph, S

0 (0%) — 14 (50%)

Joseph was limited to special teams duty against the Vikings.

James Mitchell, TE

DNP: Was inactive for Week 3

Malcolm Rodriguez, LB

55 (76%) — 3 (11%)
PFF defensive grade: 35.8

As coach Dan Campbell said, this is only a failure for his young team if they don’t learn from it. Surely there will be plenty of teaching points for everyone, but especially so for linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard and his group of players.

There were moments here and there, but it was mostly a day to forget for the linebacking unit as a whole. For the first time this season, the Malcolm Rodriguez hype train may have hit its first snag. With that said, it’s also important to remember that while he has blown away any and all expectations of a sixth-round draft pick, he is still, in fact, a rookie.

Like the rest of the defense, Rodriguez had his struggles against the run—but this was the first time we have really seen him being picked on through the air. Here he is tasked with guarding tight end Irv Smith Jr.—no easy task for any young linebacker. Smith gives him a little hesitation on his release, causing Rodriguez to jump inside and lose outside leverage on the route. From there, he is out of phase and is in chase-down mode, resulting in an easy pitch-and-catch.

Like with Hutchinson (and the rest of the team), this should serve as a valuable learning experience for Rodriguez. Being the competitor he is, I expect a nice bounce-back game from him and the rest of the defense when the Lions host the visiting Seattle Seahawks at Ford Field.

Chase Lucas, DB

DNP: Was inactive for Week 3

Undrafted Free Agents

Demetrius Taylor, DL

DNP: Was inactive for Week 3

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